Brass form the Past: The Year Phantom Regiment Jumped From 4th to 1st in Three Days to Take the Gold
Phantom Regiment’s 2008 show “Spartacus” is by far one of the most iconic drum corps programs of this generation. It captured the hearts of thousands of fans across the nation and to this day is at or near the top of the list of shows that come up most when I ask people what their favorite shows are. Many point to this show and say that that it was the show that got them into drum corps.
What made this year even more special was the way that the corps finished the year. They began behind the Cavaliers and Blue Devils in Quaterfinals, then finished one place higher each night to take the gold medal by a mere .025.
But what if I told you that this wasn’t the first time that Regiment stole a Gold medal on the last night of the season?
That’s right. This post isn’t about Spartacus. It is instead about the first time Phantom won the championship. The year was 1996, the show, "A Defiant Hear: The Music of Dmitri Shostakovitch.“
Now before we get into the season, lets take a moment to look at the show itself. Their repertoire this year included:
The show was very much a music driven production, featuring little in the way of a gimmick or overarching concept other than simply the music of Shostakovitch and the man himself.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1906, Shostakovitch was one of the most prominent composers to come from the post Bolshevik era. He began working with a style heavily influenced by other prominent Russian composers such as Prokofiev and Stravinsky, but soon developed his own style that combined this neo-classical influence with the post-romantic trend used by Gustav Mahler.
In his life, Shostakovitch became one of the premier figure heads in the Russian art scene earning such illustrious awards as “The Order of Lenin”, “People’s Artist of the RSFSR”, and “Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union”. To put it mildly, those in power at the height of the Cold War on the Soviet side had a thing going on for Shostakovitch.
But the interesting thing about Shostakovitch, and where Phantom derived its theme of “A Defiant Heart”, is that for as much as the government loved him, he really didn’t like them back at all. Shostakovitch was a noted humanitarian who took issue with the government’s treatment of its people. This included the way it would mandate how its artists were allowed to craft their work. Twice, Shostakovitch was formerly denounced by the Soviet state for not complying to its demands.
Shostakovitch’s music holds a special place in the social and historical frameworks of humanity because of the way it was crafted under the oppression of the likes of Stalin, and yet still found a way to subtly give one the idea of the heavy and foreboding way of life in the USSR.
Now, with the proper musical and thematic context in mind for the show itself, we can delve into the season for Phantom Regiment.
1996 began as many seasons did at the time. Phantom competed in the Drum Corps Midwest circuit. This meant that they were in direct competition with the likes of the Madison Scouts and the defending champions, The Cavaliers. Their first competition of the year was in Toledo, OH where The Cavaliers took 1st with a 70.6, Madison 2nd with a 69.2, and Phantom 3rd with a 69.1. Phantom would shift places with Scouts for the next competition on the 17th before having the Scouts tie them on the 21st.
Phantom would pull away from Madison over the course of the next few weeks, but was consistently a step or so behind the corps from Rosemont. In fact, when you take the season as a whole, the two corps went head to head a total of 17 times with the Cavaliers winning the match up 10 times to Phantom’s 7.
The first time Phantom ran into the perennial powerhouses of The Cadets or the Blue Devils was 6/20 and 7/27 respectively. They placed 2nd to The Cadets 3rd on the 20th, placing .9 ahead of the Bergen County corps. The contest on the 27th however was the DCI Preview in Madison, WI where both BD and Cadets made appearances along side Phantom. This time around, Regiment would end up in 3rd with an 87.6 while Cadets placed 2nd with a 90.0 and BD 1st with 90.4. A similar story played itself out with each subsequent meeting with the Blue Devils, the Concord corps finishing a point or two ahead of the Rockford corps each time. The exception was on 8/10 in Charlotte, NC where Phantom placed only .7 back.
As the season culminated in Orlando, FL, Phantom Regiment found themselves in the 4 spot after Quaterfinals. Looking at the recap, their highest caption placement was Brass which was only .1 behind the Blue Devils, but this was counteracted by a 6th place finish in GE Music and a 7th place finish in Perc. The entire sheet culminates in a 94.6 for the Regiment, placing them .9 behind The Cavaliers, 2.6 behind The Cadets, and 3.7 behind the Blue Devils.
Semifinals saw improvements across the board. Brass jumped to 1st, .2 ahead of BD, and as did GE Visual. Their lowest spots were now in 5th place with Ensemble Music and Perc. This time, they were 1.1 behind The Cadets and 1.4 behind the Blue Devils.
What happened the next night is one of the greatest moments in DCI history. Phantom Regiment brought a performance for the ages which was enough to bring the moment at 3:41 in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYoleBn8obw
That’s right. The first ever tie in DCI history. Phantom Regiment took the top spot in both GE Music and Visual and Brass. They also finished 2nd in Ensemble Music and Visual, but because of the aggregate score, they were able to tie the Blue Devils who placed 3rd in Ens. Music and 1st in Ens. Visual. The biggest weakness for the corps was Perc and Visual Performance where they ended up in 3rd place.
The biggest wonder of the entire sheet comes in the Brass spot where Phantom scored a 9.9. Now, at this point in time, the highest a corps could score in Brass was a 10. The judge that night, R. Rubino, could not place Regiment that high because Phantom performed 10th. If Phantom had been on last, they might have notched a perfect caption score and could have possibly won the champion ship. Another spot that they could have taken an extra tenth from was GE Music where J. Phillips put them at 19.5 (out of a possible 20). If they had performed ahead of the Cadets, it is entirely possible that they might have gotten a higher score. But, this is all just speculation and sadly is not how history works.
Season by the Numbers:
Number of Competitions- 27
Lowest Placement- 4th (8/15)
Final Placement- T-1st 97.4 (8/17)
Number of Wins- 9
So there you have it folks at home. The story of how the corps from Rockford, IL earned its first championship by jumping up 3 places and 2.8 points over a three night span. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at drum corps’ past. If you would like to see a similar review of another show from another year, feel free to let me know and I can see about getting it done. Until then, this has been the DCI News Network with a dose of Brass from the Past.